August 15, 2007

In a column posted on yesterday’s World Net Daily, David Kupelian broaches the uncomfortable, yet timely subject of madness and the contribution psychotherapeutic drugs might have in the uptick of seemingly inexplicable acts of violence we’ve all unfortunately become too accustomed to in this day and age. Kupelian’s argument – one which I find quite compelling, BTW – is that the role of modern psychiatry and its increasing reliance on pharmaceutical companies to provide quick fixes to the deeper spiritual problems faced by many in our rapid-paced, technologically-advanced and increasingly isolated culture as a major factor in the increase of these horrendous acts is something that needs to be considered:

When the subject of violent crimes and linkage to psychiatric drugs comes up, two distinct views emerge.

The mental-health establishment’s view is that these drugs have no “proven” role in enabling such horrific deeds, or at least that their benefits far outweigh whatever negative reactions may rarely occur. According to this view, of the millions of people taking these medications the vast majority are helped and the few who end up committing violent acts probably would have snapped anyway – with or without the drugs.

The other, contrarian view is that the drugs are dangerous and harmful, turning previously nonviolent people into homicidal maniacs. At a very minimum, critics contend, the meds push some individuals, already living on the edge of sanity, over the edge into violence. In addition to a growing corps of health professionals and a sizeable pile of peer-reviewed studies corroborating this view, the drug companies themselves – compelled by FDA labeling requirements – bolster it with their “black box” label warnings of increased “suicidal ideation” risk and other negative effects.

But let’s pause, putting aside for a moment the dogma of all the “experts,” and consider carefully and deeply what we’re really looking at.

We are talking about human beings who have somehow developed a secret inner life dominated by exceedingly dark thoughts and compulsions. Wild mood swings. Horrible, consuming resentment teetering on the edge of violent frenzy. Paranoid delusions fueled by intense emotion. Satanic visitations and inner voices that torment people mercilessly, sometimes for years, commanding them to commit murder or suicide – or both.

Does this really sound to you like a physiological problem in need of drugs? Sound like a disease? A biochemical imbalance in the brain? Neurotransmitter activity that’s too sluggish?

Or does it possibly sound like something much more mental-emotional, even spiritual, in origin?

The truth is, if we think we can solve problems like these with pills, we might be just as delusional as the people we’re trying to help.

As Kupelian is readily willing to admit, there are, undoubtedly, “genuine, organic brain diseases that may benefit from drug therapy”, as well as “instances where an individual is so psychotic as to pose a direct danger to him/herself and others, where sedation might be appropriate”, but I think he’s onto something when he writes of “the overwhelming majority of cases where psychiatric drugs are unwisely relied on to fix Americans’ mental-emotional-spiritual problems.” Further down in the article, Kupelian gets straight to the point:

Not too long ago, the counseling arts recognized that people suffering from mental-emotional, developmental problems needed self-understanding first and foremost. This was a noble and vital goal. But today, as Fortune points out, psychiatry has substituted “pills for couches.” Like mad scientists, our “experts” fool around with the intricacies of people’s brains, monkeying with the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine to artificially “elevate mood.”

Thus we have the spectacle of troubled people coming to mental-health experts with serious personal problems – emotional conflicts, fears, obsessions, compulsions and perhaps delusions rooted in early trauma, or in seriously flawed family relationships, or in buried resentments toward cruelty and injustice that were never resolved but just festered and grew. Yet, instead of being helped to understand where they’ve gone wrong, or where their negative programming, unhealthy relationships and destructive attitudes came from so they can correct them and find genuine healing, they’re given clever drugs designed to chemically trick the body and mind into “feeling better.”

I remember a time not too long ago when a night of television viewing would be replete with commercials advertising all kinds of smoking and alcohol products. At least in the case of the former, these advertisers were forced to end that kind of broad-scale marketing due to the negative impact posed by smoking on people’ lives. Nowadays, watching all the drugs marketed willy-nilly across the airwaves every night, I can’t help but wonder how this form of advertising is allowed to continue as well. We’ve become a nation reliant on the “quick fix” – and the major drug manufacturers, their advertising agencies, and the broadcast and cable networks are all too willing to play the role of willing provider when it comes to everything we think that might ail us, both physically and spiritually, in the name of revenue and market share.

Kupelian’s view is that, while this is all a very complex issue with no shortage of players, victims, and willing accomplices, in the end it all boils down to a single root cause – an increasing view in Western culture that religion and (although I hate the word) “spirituality” have virtually no role to play when it comes to self-esteem, individual happiness, and inner wellness; these are all conditions and/or processes requiring no link whatsoever to God and/or religion:

Until the last 50 years or so, Western man believed the Creator put us here on this magnificent globe we call earth, and that we, alone among all creatures, were given the ability – and destiny – to choose between good and evil.

Today’s cultural elite, including those in the healing arts, basically don’t recognize the existence of God, morality, good and evil, righteousness and sin. In other words, they don’t understand what life is all about – that each and every one of us on this earth is appealed to, from just beyond the visible world, by a dimension of good and a dimension of evil, which we call Heaven and Hell. And that by heeding the wrong impulses we get into serious trouble.

Instead, they look at man and see a soulless human animal whose behavior problems are mostly genetic or organic in origin and, in any event, manageable with drugs.

Does this sound in any way surprising? In a day and age where traditional and once highly-valued cultural institutions such as marriage, fidelity, and emotional stability are denigrated; where narcissism, self-indulgence, and outrageousness are both celebrated and encouraged (one look at today’s “reality shows” and cable TV fare will tell you that); where life itself has become cheapened to the point where it’s not really life itself, but the so-called “quality of life” that matters (and here I’ll toss in everything from abortion-on-demand to euthansia advocates), should it be surprising to anyone that we’ve become a nation searching for easy answers to the isolation, loneliness, violence, and familial disintegration we see all around us?

Kupelian argues that religion, while certainly not a “magic pill” for everything that ails us as a culture, nevertheless has a critical role to play in this day and age. For whether you want to call it “religion”, “Christianity”, “church”, or “spirituality”, all of these things help us understand there is something out there beyond us, humbling us, forcing us to see outside ourselves and the impact our actions – and reactions – have on those we interact with on a daily basis. Specifically, the Judeo-Christian religions have much to say about good and evil, the benefits of pursuing the former and avoiding and rejecting the latter as a way to inner peace and personal happiness, and the impact that sin, forgiveness, mercy, and repentence all have on our emotional self-awareness and ultimate well-being. Of course, you won’t find any of this either encouraged, uplifted, or publicized in a positive way in today’s mainstream dino-media; religious people are unsophisticated, uncultured, right-wing zealots, or just plain dumb. To go to church or be religious is a sign of weakness – well at least in that regard they’ve got that right – and something to be discouraged or, in the case of Christian religious symbols and practices, fought at every turn. It’s a sad thing, and, as a result, we have become the makers of our own sad lot in life and time.

Towards the end of his article, Kupelian sums his argument up as follows:

We need to revisit the practice of drugging troubled souls. Psychiatry has totally bought into it and will consider me a Neanderthal or worse. Too bad. Because they’re taking the crown of God’s creation, the human mind, and acting like Dr. Frankenstein engaged in some mad, grandiose experiment, playing God, pulling people’s mood-strings chemically. There’s another way.

No doubt there are appropriate times and places to use these medications – rarely. But our increasing reliance on them is creating untold suffering of a kind and magnitude we can barely imagine. All because of a blindness that dominates our age – a blindness that obscures that which every child knows naturally:

We are born with a good side and we have a bad side. And we need to be careful which side we listen to. If we listen to the wrong side, terrible consequences follow.

I encourage everyone to read and share Kupelian’s entire article. You may or may not agree with all the points – or the solutions – he is proposing, but it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and thought-provoking pieces I’ve read in a long time, and one well-worth reading and sharing.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:43 | Comments Off on An Uncomfortable Reality
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